University of Leicester
2020MEESONGVEdD.pdf (1.96 MB)

Undergraduate Programme Leadership and the Teaching Excellence Framework in Small Universities: A Case Study

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posted on 2021-03-17, 08:55 authored by Graham V. Meeson
This research aimed to understand how undergraduate programme leaders at small universities understand their role. The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a component of the United Kingdom’s (UK) 2017 Higher Education and Research Act was used as a focus. The TEF reinforced existing market-like behaviours within the sector by providing information supporting student decisions regarding where to study. This economic framing of university education was consistent with market principles predominating in the UK’s public sector since the late 20th century. Data for this study was collected during the winter and spring of 2017-2018, following the publication of the institutional TEF results (June 2017). Small universities are a distinctive type of university, mostly focussing on undergraduate teaching. Undergraduate degree courses are often led by some form of programme leader. The literature regarding this role highlights both its challenges, and its importance for programme effectiveness. The TEF represents a national policy intervention with potential impact upon the work of programme leaders. Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with programme leaders working at five small universities. Weick’s (1995) view of sensemaking was employed to develop an analytical lens to assess the interviews’ content. This revealed that, although the participants possess a limited understanding of the TEF, they exhibit a willingness to incorporate the underpinning principles into their work. This contrasts with the articulation of their values, focussed on interpersonal and educational aspects of the work in the sector. In the absence of the universities concerned providing a clear understanding of the TEF, the participants often employ their previous professional identities and experiences to understand their programme leader role. The original contribution to knowledge of this research is an understanding of how programme leaders in small universities comprehend their role in relation to a national policy implementation associated with learning and teaching.



Chris Atkin

Date of award


Author affiliation

Bishop Grosseteste University

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • EdD



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